I’ve played a great many MMOs over the last 8 years or so. I began with Guild Wars, moved on to World of Warcraft for a time, before settling on The Lord of the Rings Online for around 18 months. And I’ve dabbled in just about every other major MMO available in that time, and even briefly poked around some ancient ones like Ultima Online. However, one MMO has had the greatest impact on me in all that time, and that’s Eve Online.
I think Eve is an astounding achievement by CCP Games, and the sheer scope of it makes many games seem almost child-like in their ambitions. To my mind its emergent player generated stories have resulted in some of the most interesting stories ever to come out of online video games, and have even managed to create a separate group outside of its actual player base that simply prefer to read about it than to play it. How many games are intriguing enough to spawn that kind of interest (and no reading Massively comment flame wars doesn’t count)? No game has had such a profound effect on me, and I literally lost about 18 months of gaming time to being heavily immersed in the universe of New Eden.
But, having said all this, one fact remains undeniable: I am not actually playing Eve Online at the moment. So, if it’s so great, why not? Well, I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this. On the one hand I miss the game, but on the other, I simply cannot bring myself to put in the time I believe is required to reap the most from the experience. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a multitude of activities that can been done in relatively short time windows in Eve. You could go scouting around the low security areas of space looking for a fight, run a couple of missions, scan down some exploration sites, keep your manufacturing processes ticking over, and a great many other activities, in around an hour a night. I mean you’d never be the most efficient or resource rich player, but it’s manageable on a limited timetable. And Eve’s passive skill training system means skills train in real time whether you are logged in or not. However in my experience what really bound me to Eve, and kept me heavily invested in the medium and long- term, was my relationship with my Corporation mates.
I formed a great friendship with the leaders of my Corp, and some of our other members, and together we had all kinds of fun and adventures. But predominately, we simply hung out whist waiting for something to happen (that happens a lot in Eve); be that war targets logging in, disciplining some rule-breaking corp member, providing training to new players, or taking part in corp activities and competitions. More than anything though, we simply enjoyed each others company. I even flew out to Holland to meet a couple of corp mates, which was a slightly surreal experience, but I’m still glad I did it (we played with Nerf guns a lot).
Anyway unfortunately, as I’m sure has happened to many people in MMOs, drama led to the breaking apart of the corporation. Not overnight, but slowly over a few months. This was a painful process to watch, and in a sense I was part of it, as the uncomfortable atmosphere made me less eager to log in every night. It’s sad to me that this happened, but in a way it broke the spell. My desire to play Eve was suddenly diminished.
Now, I still believe I could make new friends in Eve I like just as much as the old ones. With hundreds of thousands of people on a single server, and just about every kind of community conceivable, there simply has to be more like-minded people. In fact, it should be easier if anything given I now have a much better understanding of how I might actually like to spend the majority of my game play time than when I was a new player who didn’t understand all of the options available to them. But, I know that to form those sorts of relationships again requires a lot of dedication and a willingness to be an active and involved member of a corporation. Being sure to make every event, fighting effectively in PvP battles, helping out newer members, and taking part in wars. All this can be a lot of fun, but I just don’t think I have the energy to go through it all again just now.
I don’t believe my time with Eve is over forever, my interest and admiration for the game remains too high for that to be the case ( though I certainly don’t think it’s perfect). One day I shall return, but I guess it’s just on hold for now. Waiting until I’m ready to replicate what was the most intense period of my gaming life, and one that gave me some of the most satisfying experiences this hobby has to offer.